Monday, October 25, 2010

Biking in Burma

Biking here in Yangon is certainly an interesting prospect. There are a few challenges that make it rather exciting to jump on the bike and ride;

  1. road conditions (or lack of road)

  2. traffic (watch out for the buses and taxis especially)

  3. pedestrians (standing on the white line is a safety zone - you may not be able to see me, but you can't touch me if I'm standing here!)

  4. dogs

  5. cows

  6. unmarked road repairs (traffic cones don't exist - road repairs are usually marked with a pile of rocks right in the road)

  7. broken down cars (repairs are done where ever the car breaks down. If the driver gets a flat in the middle lane, that's where he'll stop and make the repair)

  8. and poor lighting.

But, all things considered, I've only had a couple of close calls so far, nothing serious. Although the traffic is crazy here, nobody gets irate and road rage is certainly not an issue. The traffic and people kind of "flow" around each other versus following any rules or obeying any lane markings. I make an odd enough entity - helmet, gloves, water bottle, tricked-out bike, big Caucasian guy - that most people stare and give me a fairly wide berth. Often the children in cars will goad me on when they pass, all in a good-natured way, and I'll be compelled to sprint out and pass them, much to their delight.

The roads themselves present the greatest challenge. There's really only one road that is good enough for road biking for any distance, so I'll ride that out-and-back two times a week or so with my friend Chris H. Otherwise, it's mountain bike time to negotiate the pot holes and other road hazards. I usually leave early mornings about 5 a.m. when the traffic is thin and the riding less risky. I've been all over Yangon now, gotten lost most every time because all the side streets look the same and there are few street signs here. I eventually find my way back using the GPS.

There are a surprising number of bikers (not the commuters) who ride, especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Most are Myanmar, some are expats or other embassy folks. There's even a Myanmar Cycling Federation that I want to join, just so I can say I'm a member. Plus, we have Bike World, a great little bike shop run by an Australian, Jeff P., who also organizes tours and rides.

Biking is a passion and no matter where you go, you're bound to run into someone else who shares that passion. Even in Myanmar. So, come ride with us.


Dr. Rick said...

Sounds like fun. I envy you. Most exciting biking I have had was dodging the Red Necks on Texas backcountry roads around Castroville and Bastrop.

As I remarked to Heatherly, the road conditions and driving rules there are as they were in most of Asia in the 60s. Exciting!

GlobalNomad said...

I've wimped out so far on the road adventure, keeping my bike on the trainer inside, but I know have to take the plunge sometime soon. The cool season is coming--less rain, less sweat.

Dr. Rick said...

Sounds like a plan.